A Spindle Splintered is a queer retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale, playing on the variations that exist and adding one of its own. The basic story has been around for almost seven hundred years and has flown through the hands of Basile, Perrault, and Grimm, and that’s before we get into the hundreds of adaptations so what’s another?
Harrow brings her own lens to this, and imbues her lead, Zinnia Grey, with a wonderfully clear voice. It is so realistic that I initially thought we were getting an introduction from the author before realizing we were in first person, which I don’t always enjoy, but it often works in novella length, and similarly well in YA, and A Spindle Splintered is both.
The story introduces us to Zinnia Gray on her twenty-first birthday. It is an especially important birthday since it’s the last one she’ll have. Zinnia with a rare genetic condition caused by an industrial accident in her hometown which causes proteins in her systems to build up and screws with her mitochondria. There is nothing the doctor’s have been able to do to extend anyone’s life who has the condition as far as their twenty second birthday. With a ticking clock Zinnia has developed a set of rules to live by and pursued a degree in folklore and is somewhat of a specialist in the Sleeping Beauty tale, as she has always identified with its Princesses. So when she finds herself slightly drunk in a tower with a spinning wheel on her 21st birthday thanks to the party planned by her best friend Charm she is uniquely prepared when she pricks her finger and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate asking for help. Zinnia finds herself doing whatever she can for Primrose, and beginning to wonder what she could accomplish if only she fought for survival instead of counting down the clock to her inevitable end.
I liked this one, but I liked the version my imagination kept coming up with more. Harrow wrote the heck out of this, its got a lot to say about the types of lives women have been allowed to live, what boxes we put around ourselves, how love can feel like an obligation, or a prison, instead of something that frees you. But… because Harrow is riffing on such a well known story my brain kept thinking it knew where she was going and as I mentally prepared for the zig I got a zag, and I didn’t always like the zag more. No amount of great Arthur Rackham inspired page art (seriously, it gave a great mood to this) could keep me from feeling the gap. All that said, I’ve still added A Mirror Mended the next Fractured Fairytale to my to read list.